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‘Prissy, Queen of the South’ goes to University

Romani artist, Jake Bowers, unveils Gypsy horse sculpture at University of Sussex to inspire students from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds

‘Prissy, Queen of the South’ - a life-size sculpture of a Gypsy cob horse by Romani

artist, blacksmith and Drive 2 Survive co-chair, Jake Bowers - is coming to the University of Sussex in a bid to encourage more students from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds to apply for further studies.

For many hundreds of years, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have lived,

worked and travelled in the South Downs, yet evidence of that past is almost

impossible to see. In spring and summer 2023, artist blacksmith Jake Bowers, with

help from community members, set to work to make a permanent and powerful

reminder of that presence as part of the National Trust’s Changing Chalk project.


The sculpture went on a 1000-mile tour throughout Britain from the National Trust's

property at Devil’s Dyke in the South Downs, via Appleby Fair in Cumbria and the Tilford

Rural Life Centre in Surrey. On 23 February the sculpture will find a new temporary

home at University of Sussex. There will be an official ceremony to celebrate Prissy’s

arrival at the University at 4pm on Friday 23 February outside the Jubilee Building,

forming part of a Gypsy, Roma & Traveller symposium organised by the University of

Sussex and funded by the British Academy. Prissy will be hosted at the University for

one year, representing the University’s commitment to race equality and widening



Says Romani blacksmith artist, Jake Bowers, of his creation: “The measurements for

the sculpture came from a real-life model, Winnie the Gypsy cob, the much-loved horse

owned by my sister, Priscilla. By taking this lovely mare’s vital statistics we had a life-

sized model to that could be made in steel.”


“After the framework and legs were firmly welded on, we decided it was time to take

Priscilla, Queen of the South, as she had become known, on a nationwide tour so

members of our community, the public, and public sector workers could help forge part

of her massive mane, feathery feet, and tail.”


Jake continued: “By getting a symbol that’s close to our hearts and putting it back in the

landscape, people can see that we [travellers] belong. Prissy will be here for as long as

people look after her and long after I’m gone.


“There will be future generations of Gypsies, Romani and Travellers to whom she will

really mean something. I’m excited that Prissy is going to the university this year and I

hope she encourages others from Romani communities to go as well.”


Josie Jeffery, the National Trust’s Changing Chalk lead for the Cultural Heritage project,

said: “Prissy proudly reflects the rich cultural heritage of the Downs. As a member of the

travelling community myself, it has been an honour to lead on this project. Not only has

it been a fantastic journey of discovery, bringing to the surface some of the wonders and

barriers of living a nomadic way of life on the South Downs, it has connected me to my

own hidden past. We are delighted the University of Sussex will be hosting Prissy and I

am very much looking forward to delivering a talk as part of ‘Deemed Dirty’, the

University’s Gypsy, Roma & Traveller symposium, as well as being a part of her launch

on campus.”


Professor Roberta Piazza from the University of Sussex, who has led on the British

Academy funded research on the representation of Romani and Travelling

communities and their association with the notion of ‘dirt’, commented: “As part of its

core values of promoting social and cultural inclusivity, the University fully recognises

the contribution of Gypsies, Romani and Travellers to the history of the country. With

the symposium as the culminating moment of research celebrating these communities,

it is very fitting that Prissy is being unveiled at this event. The arrival of Prissy is a

symbol of the institution’s sensitivity to and interest in diverse ethnic communities.”


Jake Bowers and Professor Roberta Piazza chose to install the sculpture at Sussex to co-incide with their research into how Gypsy communities are represented as dirty by the mainstream media

The symposium, Deemed Dirty: Gypsies and Travellers in present day neo-liberalism,

is open to the public and is free to attend.


After her time at the University, Prissy will be tethered at a new location on the South

Downs as a visible symbol of the role Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people have played

in the shaping of this landscape.


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